Kids plant trees for next generation

Last Friday was Arbor Day, and in celebration of the Nebraska-founded holiday Tim Schaaf and Sarah Winslow of the Natural Resources Conservation District paid a visit to Broken Bow first graders. On one of the rare warm, sunny days our region has enjoyed recently, the first grade students at North Park elementary gathered outside as Mr. Schaaf presented a quick lesson on plants and soils. The students then gathered in front of the school and watched excitedly as Schaaf dug holes to plant two new trees on the property. Groups of students got to take turns scooping the dirt back in around the little seedling and pack it down as Schaaf explained how to care for the young plants while they grow. Not surprisingly, the children had a hay-day getting their hands dirty! The Broken Bow community is proud of its trees, and proud to announce that the city has again been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA community for its commitment to urban forestry. Broken Bow has earned this national designation for 34 years. The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service. Broken Bow has met the four standards to become a Tree City USA community. Three City USA communities must have a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation. “We commend Broken Bow’s elected officials, volunteers and its citizens for providing vital care for its urban forest,” said John Rosenow, chief executive and founder of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Trees provide numerous environmental, economical and health benefits to millions of people each day, and we applaud communities that make planting and caring for trees a top priority.” Rosenow says communities that earn Tree City USA recognition not only have taken the time to meet the four standards, they know that trees: • Promote healthier communities by filtering the air we breathe by removing dust and other particles. • Moderate climate, conserve water and provide vital habitat for wildlife. • Reduce the heat island effect in urban areas caused by pavement and buildings. • Increase property values and reduce energy use and add beauty to our homes and neighborhoods. Though Arbor Day is past, it's not too late to plant a tree in your home landscape or your community. As the students at North Park learned, the trees we benefit from today are not, for the most part, ones that we planted ourselves; they are trees planted by previous generations with a vision toward the future. Carry that tradition forward by planting trees in your own yard or in a park, schoolyard or other community place. Here are a few tips to ensure that your tree lives as long as possible: y Pay close attention to the planting site. To avoid conflicts with buildings, utility lines and other trees, look up and around and consider the mature height and width of any tree(s) you may plant. y Don't forget about the soil. If it's sandy, you may need a species that is drought-tolerant while heavier clay soils may call for a tree adapted to higher levels of soil moisture. Only fertilize if you know there is a nutrient deficiency. y Put some thought into what you will plant. There are many trees that grow well in Nebraska but aren't widely planted. ReTree Nebraska has developed a list of underutilized tree species called 11 for 2011. To find out more about these species and where you can purchase them, visit -- You only get one shot at planting a tree properly, so do it right the first time. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. This ensures that you're creating a planting site where newly developing roots can easily establish themselves into the surrounding soil. y Remove the tree from its container, basket or burlap ball and examine the root system. If the tree is root bound or has excessive spiraling or girdling roots, it will have difficulty establishing itself. If the root ball contains just a few spiraling roots, score the side of the root ball with a sharp knife or pruner y Remove excess soil from the top of the root ball to find the tree's primary lateral roots. These roots should be located at or near the soil surface when you place the tree in the planting hole. y After your tree is in the ground, add a layer of mulch to protect tree roots from extreme weather conditions, eliminate weed and grass competition and preserve soil moisture. Mulch near the trunk should be approximately 1-inch deep, while mulch can be up to 4 inches deep toward the edge of the mulch ring. Don't allow mulch to rest directly against the trunk of the tree. -- Staking is not always required at planting, particularly for small trees or trees planted in protected areas. However, trees that are tall and leggy or in high wind areas should be staked. Don't be concerned if the trunk sways some with the wind as this will help it develop strength in the stem and ultimately result in a stronger tree. y Be sure to water your tree at planting. The amount of water needed will depend on the soil type and the type of tree planted. Water the day of planting, three days later and three days after that. Continue monitoring your newly-planted tree to be sure it doesn't get too dry, but remember that new trees are more likely to die from too much water than from not enough. Using a turf irrigation system to water trees may not be optimal for the tree's requirements. If you can easily push a 6-inch screwdriver into the soil surrounding the tree, you are probably providing adequate moisture. For more information about ReTree Nebraska, species selection, proper tree planting and care, visit